ROME, FEB. 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Eluana Englaro, the 38-year-old Italian woman who has been in the so-called vegetative state for 17 years, died today after being denied food and water for three days. But it’s not the last word, said a Vatican spokesman.
Eluana was moved at 1:30 a.m. last Tuesday from the hospital where she was being cared for, to a geriatric residence in Udine, which had agreed to fulfill the wish of Eluana’s father: that she be disconnected from her feeding tubes and allowed to die. The process of decreasing the Italian woman’s supply of food and water began Friday.
When she died, the Italian Senate was debating legislation that would impede the suspension of nutrition and hydration from patients in the so-called vegetative state.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said in statement reported by Vatican Radio that Eluana was “a person who we loved much and who in the last months became a part of our lives.”
“Now that Eluana is at peace,” he said, “we hope that her case, after so many discussions, will be a motive for serene reflection and a responsible search for the best way to accompany the weakest, with love and careful attention, with the due respect for the right to life.”
The spokesman quoted Benedict XVI who on Sunday called for the care of those “who can in no way take care of themselves, but depend entirely on the care of others.”
“But the physical death is not the last word for Christians. In the name of Eluana, we will continue to seek the most effective path to serve life,” he concluded.
The Italian bishops, who had repeatedly asked that Eluana be kept alive, expressed their “great pain” at the death of the Italian woman. They said they hoped her death unites “those that believe in the dignity of the person and the inviolable value of life, above all when it is defenseless.”
The bishops added, “We call all not to flag in this passion for human life from conception until natural death.”